Fighting unemployment and climate change

By Katie Johnson

To combat the two biggest challenges facing Victorians in 2020—climate change and COVID-19—the City of Melbourne has announced a new project to plant 150,000 new trees, shrubs and grasses in the municipality over the next six months. 

Commencing this week, the “Greening the City” project will respond to the six per cent unemployment rate in Victoria by creating 64 new jobs, and help to fight climate change through biodiversity. 

“We will provide jobs to 64 people who would otherwise be unemployed as a result of COVID-19. They will work for six months on the largest revegetation project we have ever undertaken,” Lord Mayor Sally Capp said.

Having completed their induction last week, the newly employed workers will soon be planting 94 trees on the Maribyrnong River bike path, 14 trees in Fitzroy Gardens to re-establish the historic Hotham Walk, and 80 new trees at Royal Park Golf Course.

Cr Capp said that this was a crucial investment which will keep the city green for future generations.  

“We have always appreciated the importance of our parks and gardens to our city and this has been even more evident during the pandemic. They provide space for people to safely exercise and enjoy some fresh air during lockdown,” the Lord Mayor said. 

During the coming months, 116,000 native grasses and wildflowers and 30,000 shrubs will be planted—including Tufted Bluebells, Kangaroo Grass and Common Wallaby Grass.

This is in addition to the thousands of native trees which will be scattered around the city. “We will plant 1000 semi-advanced trees and 3000 tube stock trees. This includes indigenous species such as River Red Gum, Golden Wattle, Coastal Banksia and Yarra Gum—a near threatened species in Victoria,” the Lord Mayor said. 

The council’s Greening the City project is in collaboration with CityWide and the Victorian Government and will be funded through the Working for Victoria initiative. 

It also comes as an addition to the council’s $1.8 million annual investment in planting 3000 semi-advanced trees each year.

Environment portfolio chair Cr Cathy Oke said one of the main benefits of the new project is that it will help to reduce the urban heat island effect. 

“Planting trees is one of the most effective and simple ways to respond to the climate emergency,” Cr Oke said.

“While we respond to COVID-19, we haven’t stopped taking climate action. As these new trees grow they will increase our city’s canopy coverage and help reduce the urban heat island effect by creating more shade.”

Cr Oke also said the project would make a large contribution towards the council’s target of 40 percent tree canopy cover on public land by 2040.

“This project will create 24,000 sqm of understorey habitat, increasing understorey vegetation in the city by six per cent, in a significant step towards our goal to increase understorey cover by 20 percent by 2027,” Cr Oke said. 

Not only is this good news for CBD dwellers hoping to enjoy more greenery, but it will also guarantee more protection for Melbourne’s native animals. 

At time of writing there are plans to plant in Royal Park, the Inner Circle Railway corridor, Dynon Road corridor, Lorimer St in Docklands and Oak St in Parkville. The council is still in the process of deciding where the trees will be located in the CBD •

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